Here is another question about clown burlesque from Angel:
I never knew about clown burlesque, but watching your numbers interested me in it. I guess my question is how do you combine the two, clownery and burlesque- but still be funny yet sexy and still teasing at the same time. Cause Im thinking that if you did too much of one, the idea wouldn’t really come across.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some of my questions I appreciate it so much.
Great question! If you’re gonna be a clown, you have to really go for it! I read an article about Tina Fey in a magazine recently where she talked about some advice she got from Steve Martin. He said that if you are at all funny, you have to kill every time. So don’t hold back! Take risks! There is nothing entertaining about a clown without a punchline!
Clown humor is often self-effacing, so you need to be able to be silly without feeling embarrassed. The clown clothes and makeup are a great way to seperate your clown character from your normal self, freeing you from your inhibitions. As a clown, you can really do anything and get away with it. People will just look at you and go, “Of course. She’s a clown.” You can use this as a way to explore subjects and expression that may be too awkward or embarrassing when not in clown face and costume.
When encorporating comedy into your act, the original definition of burlesque comes into play.
A literary or dramatic work that ridicules a subject either by presenting a solemn subject in an undignified style or an inconsequential subject in a dignified style. See Synonyms at caricature. A ludicrous or mocking imitation; a travesty: The antics of the defense attorneys turned the trial into a burlesque of justice. A variety show characterized by broad ribald comedy, dancing, and striptease.
v. bur·lesqued, bur·lesqu·ing, bur·lesques
To imitate mockingly or humorously: “always bringing junk . . . home, as if he were burlesquing his role as provider” (John Updike).
To use the methods or techniques of burlesque.
[From French, comical, from Italian burlesco, from burla, joke, probably from Spanish, from Vulgar Latin *burrula, diminutive of Late Latin burrae, nonsense, from burra, wool.]
bur·lesque’ adj., bur·lesque’ly adv., bur·lesqu’er n.The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
It’s important to be concious of that fact that in Clown Burlesque you are presenting the clown archetype at the same time as the showgirl archetype. For a really effective performance, I always consider my clown showgirl character to be a clown first, showgirl second. A clown uses exaggeration and humor to present and comment on ideas and experiences that are universal. As a clown showgirl, you would use exaggeration and irony to explore ideas or experiences relative to the showgirl character. I think of it as “burlesquing the striptease.”
For example, you could play up the showgirl’s natural interest in appearing sexy in at least a couple of different ways:
- Come out dressed as a totally ridiculous-looking clown, but never break character as a showgirl. Keep all the movements and face expressions sexy and “classic showgirl” even while removing crazy clown garb and props. For example, you could play up the classic clown gag of the never-ending scarf from the pocket by removing a glove that just keeps getting longer and longer, removing boas tied together from oversized pants, etc. You could also remove whoopie cushions, balloon animals, etc. from hiding places within your costuming, all the while keeping a “straight face” and maintaining your showgirl presentation.
- Play a clown character that is overly concerned with her appearance. Use exaggerated, clowny face expressions to express concern and make it obvious that the clown character is aware that she is not really cutting it as a “classic showgirl.” Perhaps have her pull out a mirror to check her face and hair, maybe fussing with a hat that doesn’t stay in place or something along those lines. You would want to use exaggeration and repetition on the same theme to make it clear to the audience exactly what you are playing on and that you are doing it intentionally!
These are just two examples of different ways to play on one aspect of the showgirl archetype, which I pulled from your question. There are so many other facets and ideas that you can play on, so have fun and get creative.
I think playing on the showgirl archetype is a natural starting point for clown burlesque, but of course you can explore any themes that appeal to you. You can always play on experiences that are universal to your audience, women, or humanity in general, not just to the showgirl archetype. You could also choose to be a character clown, layering another archetype or stereotype on top of the clown/showgirl combination, which creates whole new ideas to explore. For example, you could be a clown/police officer/showgirl or a clown/housewife/showgirl. The options are limitless!
The main thing to remember when putting together your number is to have fun! Pick an idea that makes you giggle. Entertain yourself! The more fun you have while creating and performing the act, the more fun the audience will have watching you. Your enthusiasm is what will enthrall your audience, so have fun, explore, and play!